Lessons Learned: The Importance of a Product-Led Customer Success Onboarding Strategy

Guest blogger Frederik Müller shares his experience with looping his product team into a redesign of the company’s onboarding process. We hope you enjoy his perspective on this critical part of the customer journey.

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By Frederik Müller

A successful customer onboarding is one of the most important steps in the SaaS world. As with many things customer success-related, applying best practices is sometimes easier said than done. Here at Klara, our biggest “lesson learned” with respect to customer onboarding was realizing that the product team, not customer success, should define our customer onboarding journey.

Our product team is amazing and has been a key contributor to Klara raising an amazing Series A round with an even more amazing investor. Even with all the best of intentions, it is easy for a gap between the product team’s vision and the customer success team’s implementation of the platform to open up and even widen over time. As a small, growing company with limited resources, our product team had always been focused on pushing the product to new frontiers. The customer success team, meanwhile, focused on developing and refining the most effective way of onboarding customers to our product. If we needed to invent workarounds for deficiencies in the product, so be it.

At Klara, the gap between the product and customer success team was caused by not having the product team lead our onboarding approach. Here are some of the key takeaways from our work to correct this issue:

The product team, together with customer success, needs to define the onboarding process

Having the product team involved in identifying key steps in the onboarding journey will ensure that the product is configured to deliver on the expected outcomes. Importantly, it will also help create very clear goals for customer success during the onboarding stage.

For example, prior to these changes, the customer success team measured a completed onboarding to not only include training and installation of features, but also customer usage of the feature up to a certain benchmark. This caused a lot of frustration for the CSMs because while they could control the training and setup of a feature, they couldn’t always control user adoption. As part of our work with the product team, we reduced the customer success team’s responsibility during onboarding to just training and installation of features. Now, every CSM can directly control the redefined onboarding process, and we are able to quickly identify and remove bottlenecks, further streamlining the process.

Product and Customer Success should establish an Onboarding Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Once the customer success team successfully completes the onboarding steps defined with the product team, what should the product team deliver? For a long time at Klara, the leading indicator of success was the number of patients that our clients communicated with using our platform. Understanding what an optimal level of usage should look like enabled us to create clear SLA: Customer Success will handle the training and technical implementation of certain features. Product will then guarantee that these features create an optimal level of patient adoption.

A clearly defined customer onboarding process will show the product team if the product is achieving the desired customer adoption levels post onboarding. Without a clear SLA from onboarding to product, it is tempting for customer success to compensate for lack in product adoption with human interventions, which robs the product team of a great learning opportunity.

Our experience over the past months and my conversations with others in the customer success community has validated my belief that product teams should continue to define the onboarding process. At Klara, we are hiring an experienced Product Marketing Manager who will jointly own onboarding KPIs with the CS team. A conversation with a leader of a 40-person CS organization drove the importance of these steps home to me. She shared that her team kept having to “throw bodies” at a product that was not driving the desired adoption levels. Because the KPI was only owned by customer success, the product team did not prioritize customer onboarding until the company realized that a weak Customer Success - Product alignment would stand in the way of the company going public. Don’t wait until then!

Need help defining customer onboarding in your organization? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers consulting engagements that focus on onboarding as well as the entire customer journey. Visit our Consulting page more details.

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Frederik Müller - Frederik is the Head of Customer Success at Klara. He is passionate about Klara’s mission to revolutionize healthcare communication for everyone involved in the patient’s journey. As such, he has spent the last years researching how to maximize patient/user adoption of Klara’s platform and worked extensively with medical practices on streamlining their operations using better communication methodologies. In his free time, Frederik enjoys reading The New Yorker, cooking, playing sports, and traveling.